They sit us down on plain wooden chairs and tie our hands behind our backs. Thick rope cuts into my ankles as they fasten them to the legs of the chair. I look around. A wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere. Basic furniture. An old sofa that has seen better days. Dust everywhere.
I’ve noticed two possible exits so far. The main door and a window behind the large table. There is a second door, half open, which seems to lead to another room.
They make sure we are properly secured. We are placed next to each other, facing opposite directions.
Out of the corner of my right eye I can see his profile. His head is bent down, but he is regaining consciousness. When he finally comes around, his eyes first search for me.
I give a small nod, to which he does not respond. We both know what to expect next. It always starts with physical torture. I keep glancing at him, but his face reveals no emotions.
They hit me first. The blow tilts my head to the left. They probably think a woman will break faster than a man or the man will break to protect the woman.
None of that happens.
Cyborgs are not supposed to feel any physical pain.
But we do.
Our neuronal networks are ten times more complex than that of a human. We can sense a slight change in the air pressure miles away, we can hear the frequencies of the colors and smell the snow before it falls. They made us this way so that we could excel in our missions. But this highly sensitive and precise system, which notifies us if the butterfly flaps its wings, does not discriminate between stimuli and interprets them all. Including the painful ones. They are conveyed by millions of neuronal connections fully, without any restrictions.
So yes, we do feel pain. We only pretend we don’t. After all, what would be the use of a cyborg that feels more pain than a human?
Neither of us says a word. I can see they are getting frustrated. My left eye is swelling rapidly. They begin to beat him as well. That hurts me more than the punches they throw at me. I get the next one right in my abdomen. I think they broke one of my ribs. I throw up a bit of blood.
Not even an expert eye could tell the difference between cyborg and human bodies. If they cut us, we bleed just as a human would. We were made this way for a purpose. To fool the enemy. To make them think they are dealing with humans, when in fact they are dealing with an artificial entity.
We were never told how we can die. But we do know it is much harder to kill us than humans. Severing our body parts would make us inadequate for a task, at least until we are brought back to the base and our limbs are reconstructed. But all other injuries and fatal wounds, we can pretty much sustain, because our bodies have the capability to repair themselves. It is an excruciatingly painful process. In human terms the equivalent would be like having a major operation without anesthetics. But I suppose our Makers have missed that too, or they simply did not care. So neither do we.
With my only functional eye I glance at him again. As his head tilts backwards from the punch he turns his eyes to me as well.
My mind is racing from this little glimpse of his. Is he concerned for me or is he simply concerned I might break and endanger the mission?
Cyborgs are supposed to be fully devoted to their missions, never question their orders and have no doubts in their way of life.
But we do.
The ability to store an enormous amount of information, easily foresee a number of possible outcomes and calculate the best option out of hundreds in a split second is what makes us perform with one hundred percent efficiency. At the same time, these quick and endless connections between neurons reveal other options and attach notions such as wrong and right, good and evil, beautiful and ugly. They cause us to doubt. All this, is it worth it? Regardless what path of reasoning I take, it always leads me to the same answer. It is not.
But we are not supposed to follow our own rationale; we are supposed to do our best to complete the mission. That is why we keep doubts to ourselves.
My nose is broken. Blood drips down on my lips. They say this liquid has no purpose; it is there just to make us appear more human. Yet, born in pain and warm as I taste it, I feel it is very much mine and I mourn every drop that leaves my body.
I keep my right eye on him the whole time. He stares at them blankly, as if he is watching a boring show. His indifference makes them angry. They hit him so hard his chair falls backwards. He is lying on the floor right in front of me. Despite the blood pouring from split skin above his eyebrow, he still keeps the eye contact. So do I. His eyes are strangely calming and caring. I feel protected. I always do when he is near me.
Cyborgs are not supposed to care about each other or anyone else.
But we do.
Each time they hit him, his pain is mine as well. Given a chance, I would gladly take his place. Since I’ve been aware of myself, we have worked together. They always send us out in pairs.
Together we are a perfect machine, complementing on all levels; separately our abilities are only slightly better than those of humans. But there is more to it. This natural compatibility extends beyond the mere efficiency for the mission. Without a partner, we eventually become useless, unable to perform. Even if matched up with new partners after losing our original ones, we still cannot perform as well as before. Nobody knows the reason why it happens. Our Makers try to find the solution, but so far many cyborgs in perfect condition are still terminated once they lose their partner.
What they fail to see is that it is not the unique compatibility that enhances our performance; it is the fear of losing our partner that pushes us to do whatever it takes, to stay together. But we are not supposed to care, so we never speak of our fears. We disguise them as blind devotion to our mission instead.
They untie us from the chairs. With the guns pointing at our heads, they order us to stand. I try, but I collapse immediately. One of my knees was shattered so I cannot use my legs properly. I detect nervousness in his eyes. I try again. They grab me by the elbows and lift me up. I manage to keep my balance somehow.
He is worried. I am making him worried. It is the first time we are in a situation like this.
They walk us towards the other room and push us in. I fall face down onto a rough wooden surface. I black out.
According to my inner sense of time I must have been out for about twenty minutes. I try to open my eyes, but manage to see only with one. The left one is still not functioning due to the swelling. First thing I see is his face. The next thing I feel is an unbearable pain.
The healing process has started. My broken rib is being repaired and so is the kneecap. To avoid any suspicion from the enemies, surface injuries remain as they are, or heal as they would heal in a human. It is only the inner organs that are being repaired, so that we can function at our full capacity when needed.
A drop of salty substance seeps from my eye. I wish it hasn’t, but for some reason I cannot control it. It is the only sign of my pain.
He is watching me attentively, without blinking. He knows what I am experiencing.
I want to tell him that as long as he is near me I don’t mind, but I am not able to move my lips. The pain is too strong. I think he knows.
Cyborgs are not supposed to fall in love.
But we do.
The substance that sends the spark to ignite this perfectly composed artificial body is called dark matter. It bears this name, because even our Makers do not fully understand how it works. They just know how to use it. The dark matter is what lights up our vast neuronal networks, causes our artificial blood to flow, enables us to talk, understand and obey.
From each piece of the dark matter only two cyborgs can be made. Perhaps sharing the same substance is what makes us so perfectly compatible. Perhaps, this is the reason why I seek his closeness beyond anything else.
We do not have feelings, or so we were taught, but if I had to pick a human emotion for the connection we share, the closest one would probably be love. But even love, as understood by humans, seems too limited and far too explicit to describe the intricate energy that exists between us.
The pain is almost gone. The repairs are nearly finished. I’m still lying on my stomach. I try to crawl closer to him but the shackles around my ankles and wrists prevent me from moving more than a few inches. He slowly shakes his head. He tried it already. The length of the chain is too short. I stop trying, his gentle gaze is enough.
When we are not on a mission we are stored in separate cubicles. Cubicles are neatly prepared living spaces, that contain everything an average human needs. Except the luxury to leave. We have to stay inside, until we are called.
I think our Makers intuitively sensed what I am only beginning to understand now. When we are together, there is nothing we cannot do. Everything becomes possible. That is why they keep us separate for most of the time, and allow us to be together only when necessary, for the purposes of the mission. They are afraid to lose control.
But the pain from being apart is beginning to be my teacher. It gives rise to all these feelings, I was not supposed to have, and which I still hide so timidly. And the more time I spend with him, the less timid I become.
Our captors are convinced they trapped us. But it was a trap for them. All along.
Soon I will have to engage in another bloodbath. He is waiting for my sign. I’m stalling. I don’t mind the current situation at all. Torture can hardly top the pain of separation. I fully embrace every millisecond in which my eyes are locked with his. I’m burning inside from the uncertainty of whether he feels the same. But the way he looks at me makes me hope he does. Hope, another concept we are not supposed to understand. Yet strangely, in this moment, it is all I need. Not a word or even a touch is necessary.
We will complete our mission. It is what we do. At least for now.
But this time I am not in a hurry.
As long as we are together, the rest can go to hell.